As you may know, for the past couple of months I’ve been posting a “Russian word of the day” on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I felt like I wasn’t being consistent enough in my Russian studies, and I thought a “word of the day” would be a good way to hold myself accountable for learning at least one thing in Russian every day.
At first it was a lot of fun to do, and it really did help me remember some new words. It was also great to see people take interest and comment on these posts. It was especially helpful to have native speakers help out by correcting my mistakes and giving more examples.
After a while, though, it started to get a little burdensome. Even though I knew I wanted to concentrate on improving my Spanish while in Barcelona, I tried (though not always successfully) to continue posting the Russian word of the day because I didn’t want to disappoint people who were following these posts. Sometimes I didn’t really learn the words, but just found random example sentences that I copied and pasted. At this point the exercise wasn’t really helping me at all.
I should have realized from the beginning that obligating myself to do the same thing every day was bound to make me restless. I am, after all, restless by nature. I can’t stay put in one place for long without wanting to go somewhere else. I’m constantly abandoning things (not because they’re bad, but because they’re the same) and trading them in for others (because they’re different). Stability dulls my mind, but I thrive on spontaneity. The Russian word of the day had become an annoyance, and I found my brain automatically shutting down when it came time to post it. As if my brain simply refused to waste its energy processing anything that wasn’t new and exciting.
Maybe that makes me sound shallow, but I’m not a complete flake– I’m also extremely devoted in a way. Once I fall in love with something, I will stick with it to the very end. I have fallen in love with Russian, so I’m most certainly not going to stop learning it– just like I’m not going to stop blogging or playing the piano. And I think the reason I’m able to keep going with things like language learning, even though it requires so much persistence, is because I keep finding new ways to do it. If I get bored of the book I’m working through, for instance, I’ll toss it aside without a thought and dive into something else. Because really, it doesn’t matter if I finish the book or not. The book is not the one and only source containing everything there is to be known about the language. There are a ton of other resources I can learn things from, so all that matters is that I just keep learning, in whatever way I can. And there are so many ways to do it that even I can stay interested!
I think it’s the same way for any kind of skill you want to learn. So if I get tired of a certain song I’m trying to play on the piano, I’ll just stop practicing it and try another song that’s more interesting to me. It doesn’t matter, because there are a bazillion songs I could potentially learn, and I can improve my skills by working on any one of them. If I just keep practicing and learning new things, eventually I’ll be able to play any song I want (including that one that used to drive me crazy!) without having to spend a ridiculous amount of time working on it. That’s what I’m aiming for. The technique and the material you use don’t really matter, as long as you’re moving forward and learning something. And if your brain shuts down due to boredom, well, then you won’t be learning much at all. This is why I don’t like to talk too much about learning methods– because ultimately, I don’t think they matter that much. None of them are really bad, but none of them are really miraculous either. They’re all just means to an end, and too often it seems like people lose sight of the end and get all wrapped up in the means.
So, my apologies to anyone who was following along, but I will no longer be posting the “Russian word of the day”. I still think it’s good to have some sort of accountability and consistency, but this doesn’t have to mean tying myself down to a limiting routine. I’ll just have to explore new ways to do it.
Sometimes I make the mistake of trying to conform to the way I think I should be because other people say it works for them. People say you have to follow a schedule, and have a plan, and establish a routine if you want to succeed. And well, I’m sure this sort of thing does work for some people, but it just doesn’t work for me. I wasted a lot of time in the past trying to fit myself into this mold, and once in a while I still catch myself trying to squeeze into it again out of sheer habit. But I should know by now that strategy doesn’t work, and that the best thing to do is to embrace my own nature and learn to work with it. I still have a lot to learn, I guess.